By Mark Blumenthal
I think the large increase in 2009 herbal dietary-supplements sales was due in part to the H1N1/swine flu epidemic scare, which drove increased sales of echinacea, elderberry extract and syrup and other immunomodulating herbs. Fortunately, it appears that such concerns are not being expressed by public health officials for the 2011 cold and flu season.
The second reason may be the usual increase in self-medication that we tend to witness during economic downturns. In regard to adulterants and quality control, I see two issues:
The American Botanical Council (ABC) is preparing the “ABC Solvents White Paper” in which we will discuss the use of industrial solvents in the preparation of herbal extracts and other natural food items. The extent of solvent use is not commonly discussed in the herb industry.
Also, I believe the adulterants issue will become more prominent in 2011. ABC (along with the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and other groups) is currently working on “The ABC-AHP Botanical Adulterants White Paper” in which we intend to list many popular herbs, herbal extracts and essential oils for which we have evidence of adulteration; the identity of the adulterant; and references to microscopic and chemical testing methods to determine presence or absence of such adulterants.
Sceletium? We've been watching this herb for more than 10 years. We believe that this herb probably needs published human clinical research, which presumably may help document its proposed beneficial mood-affecting properties, and support its presumed safety as well as proposed structure/function claims.
My daily supps: ALA, folic acid/B12, chrysin, CoQ10, diindolymethane, fish oil, lycopene, niacin, saw palmetto, vitamins C and D3, Rhodiola rosea extract, herbal anti-inflammatory formula.
Mark Blumenthal is executive director of the American Botanical Council.